Early reluctance turns to full-blown passion
When Makayla Smith was first dragged along to the Invercargill Velodrome as a 12-year-old she wasn't all that fussed about what she saw.
The track was a daunting sight and she admits to initially putting a halt to any prospect of hopping on a bike and riding around the wooden boards.
Smith had first ventured along to the velodrome as part of the Community Breakout programme at Southland Girls' High School.
Her teacher, Shona Skelt, had kept at her about having a go at cycling and it led to her first day at the track.
"I remember it very clearly, I wasn't going to do it, I wasn't too keen. The teacher said ‘Come and sit here and watch' and I did. Eventually I got on [the track] and it was awesome, I love it," she said.
Three years on from that daunting first taste of track cycling, Makayla is part of a strong group of junior Southland track cyclists bracing themselves for the New Zealand age-group championships starting in Invercargill today.
It will be the 15-year-old's third shot at a national age-group event and one she is excited about.
It will also be her second year in the under-17 grade.
"Previously in under-15 I've always been pretty consistent. I was fourth in every event in under-15 and nearly 9th in every event in under-17 last year."
Smith will be spotted in almost every under-17 event this week as she tries her hand at a host of disciplines - but she does have some favourites.
"I really enjoy the points race, purely because they're strategic and exciting but I think the scratch race could be good as well."
Cycling Southland coaching co-ordinator Dayle Tye said Smith had shown impressive development in her short time in the sport.
"She's taken massive, massive strides in improvement in the last couple of years. She's a force to be reckoned with now, I guess, in the under-17 girls. She goes up to under-19 next year so there's opportunities at under-19 age-group for junior worlds."
Tye agreed with Makayla's assessment that the points race was a strong point but said her skills stretched across many different types of racing.
"She's a really good all-rounder, but I think strategically she can ride a very good points race," he said.
"She's also got a great turn of speed and she can ride really consistently in a pursuit as well.
"Potentially . . . it would make for a good omnium rider."
The Southland Times